Alysheba arrives at the Kentucky Horse Park on October 31, 2008.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Alysheba arrives at the Kentucky Horse Park on October 31, 2008.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Alysheba Arrives at Kentucky Horse Park

Horse of the Year finds packed house to greet him at his new home.

Hundreds of racing fans packed the Hall of Champions pavilion at the Kentucky Horse Park Oct. 31 to officially welcome back to Kentucky “America’s Horse,” Alysheba.

At 1:15 p.m., a long Sallee horse van pulled up in back of the pavilion, and Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron, who partnered with Alysheba to win the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic (all gr. I), strode up the ramp to say hello to the 24-year-old. He quickly pulled his hand back when Alysheba tried to have it for lunch.

Onto the van strode Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who called out to “Sheba” in his distinctive, gravelly baritone. The horse whipped its head around and began pawing the floor of the van. Shortly thereafter, wearing a royal blue blanket with his name emblazoned on the sides, Alysheba was walked into the pavilion, where he heard speakers extol his virtues. After several minutes, he was led to his stall, and briefly hesitated before entering. He was then walked around, and soon the lead was taken off the son of Alydar and he went right to the window that overlooks his paddock. Alysheba will be occupying the same stall that served as the longtime home of John Henry, who died just over a year ago.

Alysheba Slide Show

Alysheba, a two-time champion and 1988 Horse of the Year, had recently arrived back in Kentucky from Saudi Arabia, where he resided after being purchased by King Abdullah. He had previously stood at stud at William Farish’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky. Alysheba raced three years and retired in 1988 as the top money-earning Thoroughbred in history with $6,679,242 banked. Ironically, he succeeded John Henry at the top of that list. Alysheba was bred in Kentucky by Preston Madden and raced in the colors of Dorothy and Pamela Scharbauer.

McCarron, who rode both John Henry and Alysheba, said, “Although I’m sorry John Henry isn’t with us, I’m glad he’s not here today to hear me say that Alysheba was the greatest horse I ever rode. He launched my career to another level by winning the Kentucky Derby, and he did it with style, grace, and athleticism.”

One of the great moments in Thoroughbred history came during the 1987 Kentucky Derby when Alysheba stumbled at the head of the lane, then recovered to win the race.

“I’ve been mistakenly receiving credit for picking him up at that moment,” said McCarron. “I can’t pick up a 1,075-pound horse. He got up and did it with his athleticism. Every time a horse came to him throughout his career, he would re-break.”

Added Van Berg about the Derby, “He laid down, got back up, and still beat ‘em.  He had so much charisma. Every morning at Hollywood Park when he heard my voice he’d holler for his mint. Then he’d lay down and sleep for two hours before we took him to the track.”